1. Check Your Credit Report!
Each U.S. resident is entitled to a free copy of their credit report from each of the three major agencies once every twelve months. You'll get a good idea of how much you need to improve your score by, and you'll see if there are any errors in your credit report. If you believe there are errors, begin disputing them immediately.
2. Setup Payment Reminders
Many people damage their credit score by forgetting to pay bills, even when they have the money to do so. Most credit card companies and banks offer email or text reminders to alert you when a payment is due. Setting up automatic monthly payments is also a good idea, but only if you're sure your checking account will have the sufficient balance to pay the bill each month.
3. If You Can't Pay, Call Someone
If you're experiencing financial difficulties and can't pay one or more of your bills, call the company immediately, before payment is due, to discuss your options. Letting your accounts go into default or collection is a major hit to your credit score, and some companies will allow you to pay part of the amount due. It's also important to note that consulting a credit counselor will not affect your credit score.
4. Don't Build Credit Too Fast
While the popular adage states that you must "have credit to get credit", don't open up too many lines of credit too quickly with the goal of increasing your total credit. This will decrease your average account age, which can have a large effect if you don't have a lot of credit. It may also look risky if you are a new credit user.
5. Use Your Old Cards
In an effort to pay down debt, many people stop using credit cards once they've paid off the balance, even going as far as cutting them up and throwing them away. While it's not good to carry a lot of debt, if you don't use a card for a long time, the issuers may decide to close the account or stop reporting to the credit bureaus. In fact, these oldest credit cards can improve your credit score if you use them occasionally and always pay the balance in full.